Lacewing, line drawing.
- Andrew Howells
- © Australian Museum
What do lacewings look like?
- Wingspan 5 mm - 150 mm.
- Column-like or widest at wing attachment (wide shoulders) and tapering past this point.
- Body appears soft and fragile.
- Thread-like or bead-like, and has many segments.
- Sometimes variously thickened with a well-defined club.
- Length highly variable.
- Large, bulging and well separated.
- For chewing or munching; long palps (mouthparts that look like a 'chain of beads').
- Held downwards at rest.
- Two pairs.
- Both pairs are membranous, clear and have numerous cross-veins forming many cells.
- Both pairs have forked veins along wing margin.
- Length, width and shape variable.
- At rest wings held tent-like over body.
- Six slender legs.
- Cerci (tails) absent.
Where are lacewings found?
- Just about anywhere.
What do lacewings do?
- They are solitary but they may group together or swarm during mating.
- When disturbed they usually fly away. Other possible responses include threat displays where they pretend to sting with their abdomen (they do not have stings), and emitting noxious-smelling chemicals.
- They are weak, flapping fliers.
- Those species of lacewing that feed as adults are generally predators, though some feed on honeydew or pollen.
- They are active during the night or day - some strongly attracted to light.
- Dusty wings (family Coniopterygidae) are unlike other lacewings as their wings have few veins and they may not have forked veins along margin. Furthermore their bodies are covered with a waxy secretion. Otherwise other features of the order apply. They are small with a wingspan less than 15mm.
- Mantis flies (family Mantispidae) are lacewings despite their name. They are characterised by having raptorial forelegs similar to praying mantids. Furthermore they may even behave like a mantid, otherwise all the other features apply.
- Moth Lacewings (family Ithonidae) are characterised by wings hairy along veins and margins and appear moth like. Otherwise other features of the order apply.
What looks similar?
- Dragonflies and Damselflies that are preserved may be confused with lacewings. Dragonflies and Damselflies can be distinguished by having bristle-like antennae and wings that lack forked veins along margins.
- Stoneflies can be separated from lacewings by having a pair of cerci extending from abdomen tip and wings held flat to or wrapped around body.
- Caddisflies maybe confused with Moth Lacewings however caddisflies can be distinguished as their wings are entirely hairy and have little or no cross-veins.
- Alderflies and dobsonflies that are preserved may be confused with lacewings. Alderflies and dobsonflies however lack forked veins along wing margin and their hindwing has a large lobe at base.
- Praying mantids maybe confused with mantis flies. However praying mantids unlike mantis flies lack wings or if present are leathery, cloudy and held flat over their body. Furthermore they have a triangular head, and their hindwing folds away like a hand fan.
- Scorpionflies are sometimes confused with lacewings. Scorpionflies are generally separated from all other groups by a beak-like extension of their head, with the mouthparts located at its tip. However in some lacewings the head may also appear to be extended, though never to the extent of a scorpionfly. In these circumstances scorpionflies can be distinguished by lacking the forked veins along margins of their wings.
- Moths can be confused with moth lacewings. Moths can be distinguished as they have curled tubular mouthparts or mouthparts reduced or absent; their bodies are covered in easily removed scales rather than hair; and their wings lack numerous cross-veins.